The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
Series: Inspector Alan Grant #5
Published by Dell on 1968 (first published 1951)
Genres: Vintage Mystery
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Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant is intrigued by a portrait of Richard III. Could such a sensitive face actually belong to a heinous villain — a king who killed his brother's children to secure his crown? Grant seeks what kind of man Richard was and who in fact killed the princes in the tower.
I picked up The Daughter of Time at the local used bookstore a year or so ago. i had no idea what it was about and had never read anything by Josephine Tey before, but it’s one of those mysteries – the ones that make it onto the “best” lists, the ones that any true mystery lover should read.
The title refer to a quote from Francis Bacon: “Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority.” It’s the same idea as history is written by the victor. Not all “history” is strictly truth, it’s a version someone has told that has stuck. I wish I knew more about British history, particularly Richard III, or that I had read Shakespeare’s play. If I go back to read this again, I may do a little research first. That being said, it is truly an enjoyable book on its own.
Our detective, Alan Grant, is laid up in the hospital and a friend, Marta, brings him a bunch of pictures including one of Richard III to help soothe his boredom. He becomes fascinated with the portrait, not seeing in the face the murderer that Richard III is known to be.
King Richard III by an unknown artist, late 16th century. Image from the National Portrait Gallery http://www.npg.org.uk/
What follows is a mystery unlike any I’ve read, at least as far as I can remember. Grant, along with the help of a young historian, sets out to learn the truth about whether Richard was truly responsible for his nephews’ deaths. We never leave the hospital room, no one is ever in danger, the players in the mystery are all long-dead, but it still grabbed my attention. It’s a fascinating story and Tey does an excellent job at presenting the evidence. It’s also a good reminder that not all facts can be taken at face value. I don’t know if he killed the nephews or not, but I don’t know that it matters to this particular story.
I don’t pass mysteries onto my mother very often, but I think this is one that I’ll send her way. It’s that good. Really, it’s amazing how engrossing a story it manages to be for nothing really happening, except lots and lots of research and reasoning. I did get a little confused with all the names and positions at times, but there are several times when Grant reviews everything which always helped straighten me out.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Title: Lincoln’s Grave Robbers
Author: Steve Sheinkin
Published: January 1, 2013 by Scholastic
Category: History, True Crime (Young Adult/Middle School)
Rating: 5 out of 5
Purchase: Amazon | IndieBound | Book Depository
A true crime thriller — the first book for teens to tell the nearly unknown tale of the brazen attempt to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body!
The action begins in October of 1875, as Secret Service agents raid the Fulton, Illinois, workshop of master counterfeiter Ben Boyd. Soon after Boyd is hauled off to prison, members of his counterfeiting ring gather in the back room of a smoky Chicago saloon to discuss how to spring their ringleader. Their plan: grab Lincoln’s body from its Springfield tomb, stash it in the sand dunes near Lake Michigan, and demand, as a ransom, the release of Ben Boyd –and $200,000 in cash. From here, the action alternates between the conspirators, the Secret Service agents on their trail, and the undercover agent moving back and forth between the two groups. Along the way readers get glimpses into the inner workings of counterfeiting, grave robbing, detective work, and the early days of the Secret Service. The plot moves toward a wild climax as robbers and lawmen converge at Lincoln’s tomb on election night: November 7, 1876.
First a confession. I read little non-fiction, even less history. However, I am glad I picked up Lincoln’s Grave Robbers. My family convinced me to see Lincoln in the theater last year, and they were right- it was good, and I think that is part of the reason this title caught my eye. In the end though, it’s a fascinating story told in an interesting way. I enjoyed reading it and learned a lot. I’m actually thinking about looking for more of Scheinkin’s books.
The book starts out with a cast of characters and most of the bad guys are counterfeiters. I think I learned more about counterfeiting in the 1870s than anything. I didn’t realize it had been so profitable or such a major problem. Did you know the secret service was first established to deal with counterfeiter? I had no idea.
This is a true story, but it’s almost unbelievable. Ben Boyd, the best of the engravers, is in jail and these guys some up with the plan of stealing Lincoln’s body and then demanding the release of Boyd as part of the ransom. Seems a little crazy but they had a solidish plan, spoiled by one of their own working with the Secret Service. We learn about the bad guys plans, how the secret service was going to deal with it, how some folks weren’t taking the plot seriously and even how worried the memorial’s caretaker was. Sheinkin obviously did tons of research and has a list of his sources in the back.
The story is just absurd, from the plot to how the secret service blew the big night. It’s an exciting story, though, a fun to read. The criminals are a lively bunch, and Powers, the caretaker, is dedicated to his job and to Lincoln. The good guys aren’t perfect. The most amazing part, I think, is that it’s all true. I would definitely recommend this one to middle school kids and young teens. And adults like me.
History can be cool! Wish I had realized that when I was younger.